12 Dec 2015 15:18 IST

Innovation breeds leaders

Organisations which nurture innovation and treat it as top priority create a win-win situation

The story of Sudha Murthy is legendary — how a young woman broke the tradition and joined Tata Motors, a company which, till then, hired only male candidates for its factories. One of the many takeaways from this story is that she chose to not only stand out from the crowd, but also implemented her thoughts.

American industrialist and founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tyres, hit the nail on the head when he said ‘Capital isn’t so important in business. Experience isn’t so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life’.

Ideas lead to innovation and creativity, which are capable of survival in an organisation, especially if the same is encouraged, both at individual and organisation level.

The innovation buzz

Innovation is the buzzword everywhere. However, the question remains: do organisations actually walk the talk regarding innovation, or is it an empty promise at placement camps? Even if there is no culture of creativity in an organisation, is an individual encouraged when he or she expresses an idea? Let us take a sneak peak within Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and try and get some answers.

Innovation Contests: There are various competitions organised from time to time within the organisation to encourage and reward innovative ideas, solutions and processes.

The most prominent among them is the Global Innovation Challenge, a competition where one has to find the most innovative solution that generates revenue in a territory, and has the potential to market the idea in another territory.

At PwC India, solutions that are provided to clients across the country, can be given for the national contest. The winners and runners-up are then recognised and rewarded.

The selected top ideas are sent to the PwC Global Innovation Challenge, where teams from all PwC territories participate and compete with each other. Interestingly, one team from PwC India has been the runner-up consecutively for the last two years in this global challenge.

Innovation in Communication: What would be your reaction if you were told that a social networking site exists within an organisation? Impossible? Well, that was my first reaction as well… till I came across Spark at PwC. Spark is a portal akin to a social networking site and a collaboration platform, with a tinge of business bent to help PwCites across the globe to connect freely, communicate, share knowledge, announce events, pull together cross-border complex engagements and undertake a host of activities. No wonder Spark was the Gold Award Winner at the 2014 Intranet Innovation Awards in the category of social, collaboration and communication.

Business Innovation: Every organisation aspires to grow its business, practice and profitability. In line with this vision, a need was felt to expand PwC’s consulting practice by targeting larger projects. However, before taking up any large project, its viability needs to be analysed. Further, competition is fierce in this domain and a compelling proposal is required to be submitted. The senior leadership constituted a strategic team consisting of legal, financial, knowledge management and editing experts, led by an experienced bid manager. This innovative initiative is the first in the entire PwC global network. The process of submitting large proposals has been streamlined and the team’s services have been extended to the whole of PwC India’s Advisory practice.

Win-win situation

Organisations which nurture innovation and treat it as top priority will certainly create a win-win situation. The employees’ ideas will lead to innovation and creativity for the organisation, and this will be a mutual value-add for both the employee and the company. Here’s another example to drive home this point. Some time back, ideas were sought from PwC India employees for achieving its objective of growing profitably. The winning team members were rewarded with ₹5 lakh each and the idea was taken up for implementation.

As aspiring leaders of tomorrow, it is essential that innovation and creativity is inculcated from the formative years of one’s career. Innovation is strategic to one’s business goals and values and is the ultimate recipe for success. Almost all market leaders in today’s business environment thrive on strategic innovation. Individuals behind such success stories are hailed as visionaries.

Steve Jobs beautifully captures the essence of innovation when he states: Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

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